New Bayreuth Wagner museum confronts family Nazi ties head on

Fri Jul 24, 2015 2:48pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BAYREUTH, Germany (Reuters) - A renovated Richard Wagner Museum opening in Bayreuth this weekend to coincide with the Bavarian city's annual Wagner opera festival puts the composer's anti-Semitism and his family's later ties to Adolf Hitler center stage for the first time.

Revamped and doubled in size at a cost of 20 million euros ($21.92 million), the museum for the first time displays Wagner's anti-Semitic screeds, which he published in his youth anonymously, then under his own name before he died in 1883.

It also depicts the close ties his widow Cosima, who died in 1930, and his descendants forged with Hitler, who loved Wagner's music and regularly visited Bayreuth to hear operas in the "Festspielhaus" that Wagner designed and built in the 1870s.

"When the museum was opened almost 40 years ago it was not complete," museum director Sven Friedrich said during a press tour on Friday, before the public opening on Sunday.

"It should be not only about his music and his operas but also the reception of his work in later decades and the relations of his family with Hitler."

The complex of three buildings, the main one brand new, contains an array of opera costumes, audio-visual displays, a cinema and a cafe, and will have changing exhibitions.

Most of this is contained in a new glass-and-concrete, largely subterranean main building built alongside Wagner's Bayreuth home "Wahnfried", which he built in the 1870s and which suffered major damage in an Allied bombing raid at the end of World War Two.

"Wahnfried" also has been restored with many original furnishings, but Friedrich said it was not a "composer Disneyland" and anything not original is draped in white cloth.   Continued...

A visitor takes a picture of a bust of German composer Richard Wagner at the Richard Wagner Museum in Bayreuth, Germany, July 24, 2015. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. REUTERS/Michael Roddy